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The Rise of the ‘G League Nets’

Portland Trail Blazers v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Ashley Landis-Pool/Getty Images

As if not having KD for a full season wasn’t enough, the Brooklyn Nets lost seven other players coming into the “bubble” because of COVID and injuries. Players like Kyrie Irving, Spencer Dinwiddie, DeAndre Jordan, even Michael Beasley to name a few.

Missing out on these players is no big deal or anything. Right? Well, of course it was —and is— and because of that long line of absences, they were seen as a laughing stock — or a subject of pity — around the league. Prior to the return-to-play, people joked relentlessly about them. At one point they were even called the “G League Nets.”

Behind the best jokes there always is some truth. The Nets actually do have a lot of players who played in the G league this season. To be exact, the active “bubble” roster have played a combined 157 games played in the G league. The bunch includes Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot (10 games), Donta Hall (38 games), Jeremiah Martin (37 games), Justin Anderson (31 games), Chris Chiozza (20 games), Dzanan Musa (12 games), and Rodions Kurucs (nine games). Two — Justin Anderson and Hall— were even named to the All-G League team. And that final number doesn’t include the eight games played before getting hurt.

Ok, so how exactly are the Nets winning games against teams like the Bucks and the Clippers? Some may ask how exactly are the Nets even winning games? Well, the answer is so simple. The Nets picked up players who have the skill —and pride— to make the jump from places like Uniondale and Grand Rapids to Walt Disney World.

The G League is known for developing already proven talents who may need time or coaching or just a chance. and keeping them ready for an opportunity like this. That’s particularly true of the three undrafted players who have shown their time in the G League was more finishing school than purgatory.

Chris Chiozza has always been a great facilitator with pin point passes. Donta Hall has always been an aggressive presence in the paint. Jeremiah Martin has always been a pesky defender. All of this goes to show that these players didn’t stop grinding to finally get their moment to prove themselves. They couldn’t ask for anything better than getting that spotlight here in the “bubble.”

Their more experienced teammates believe they’re crucial to whatever success the Nets have in Orlando.

:You know, a lot of guys have stepped up,” said Joe Harris who himself averaged 20 points in the “bubble.” “Obviously it’s an opportunity for a lot of guys to come in, play a different role than what they’re used to, but like we said the other day, every single guys on this roster is capable. One night it might be Jeremiah Martin. One night it’s going to be TLC. The next night it’s going to be Justin Anderson.

“Everybody’s able to contribute and step up, and we have confidence in every single person on this roster.”

“There are a lot of professionals in this locker room,” added LeVert. “We have a lot of guys who were overlooked and take it personal. We hear all of the noise people are saying. We were supposed to go 0-8 or whatever it was. We come to work each and every game and take pride in what we do.”

Martin, who had games of 20 and 24 in the “bubble,” said he took the jokes personally.

“No question. Everyone was laughing at us saying the Nets were going to look like this – you saw things all over the internet, how we weren’t going to do this,” Martin said after his 24-point effort vs. Orlando. “We have just been taking that every practice, every day, keeping that chip on our shoulder and proving everybody wrong and showing everybody who we are.”

TLC agreed, talking about the pride ALL the players have.

“Whoever is out there – starters, no starters, whoever you are – we’re all humans, and we’re all out there to compete,” who signed as a two-way player a few days after the Cavaliers waived him back in training camp 10 months ago.

Jacque Vaughn has been particularly appreciative of TLC who is averaging 14.8 points off the bench with a 50/45/90 shooting line.

“TLC (Timothé Luwawu-Cabarrot) had stayed around and worked on his body with the opportunities that he had – diligent and self-compliance of using the materials and apparatus that he had at his disposal,” said the head coach discussing how Luwawu-Cabbarot stuck around Brooklyn during the pandemic. “But at the same time, putting in the work when we got a chance to get back on the court. So, definitely believed in him and will continue to believe in him.”

The Nets face a daunting task going up against the defending champion Raptors, but one thing the “G League Nets” have proven is that they can provide the bench Brooklyn needs. It’s not just “next man up” anymore. It’s “next man called up!”